New York duo Vákoum will be hitting the West Coast this month supporting the The Album Leaf, with a stop at the Swedish American Music Hall on Feb. 23, as part of the epicness that is Noise Pop. While on tour, the duo will also be releasing a limited physical run of their debut EP, Home for Home, so be sure to stop by their set to snatch a copy for yourself.
In anticipation of their gig next week we caught up with Kelli and Natalia to talk about the meaning of their band name, how they describe their sound, and what music means to them.
How’d you come up with the band name?
It was random. We were dining in our favorite Italian spot, dreaming about becoming a duo, and started writing down words and names that sounded good to the ear. Given that we were both raised in different countries, the word Vákoum (Israeli word meaning vacuum) and having the Spanish accent over the A seemed to combine the perfect name. The more we dug into the meaning of the word, the more relevant it became.
The dichotomy between our sounds and layers, and emptiness and silenced space in which creative ideas stem from (at least in our world) was what spoke to us the most. And no, we are not a vacuum cleaner company. 😉
How would you describe your sound?
As composers, it’s really hard to answer that question. We wouldn’t classify ourselves as pop music, or experimental. It’s sort of a combination. We have our pop moments that never come to fruition in a conventional way, and are experimental in the sense that we transition a lot.
When did you first become interested in playing music?
Kelli: For me, it was when I was very little and listened to a symphony on headphones. My child’s brain was instantly lit up with curiosity. I was amazed at how all these different sounds combined together can make you feel so much. I wanted to learn how to do that. I played piano at a very young age and switched to guitar in my teens. When Natalia and I started Vákoum, I started playing the drums.
Natalia: I wanted to make music ever since I can remember, I was very little when I noticed that the most peaceful time at home was when my father was playing music. I would enjoy these moments so much that I quickly became interested in creating my own soundscapes, my own moments. I played piano at a very young age, and began to play guitar when I turned 10; that was all I wanted to do. At the age of 19, I began to explore music software.
What does music mean to you?
Kelli: Music has meant so much to me throughout the years. It’s like any complex relationship. Sometimes you’re extremely in love and it’s all you want to be doing and being around. Other times, it’s your worst enemy. But at the end of the day, you can’t live without it.
Natalia: Music has been a beautiful companion and a wise teacher that will creep in from the unknown to allow me to explore experiences, feelings or moods in its wide-open playground. When I genuinely tune in, I hit a place of clarity, and a chance to understand emotional states is there for me. It’s always been transformational, (self)-forgiving. That sort of lens in which I can see clear through. Like magic.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
A really drunk shirtless guy stepped on stage and started playing our drum-set.
What are you listening to these days?
Natalia: I sometimes don’t listen to music at all, I enjoy silence more than I like to admit. But for the sake of answering the question, all I can think of right now is Blonde Redhead: I always go back to their albums, they make me feel safe. Bjork, her music grounds me, always. Bulgarian Choirs, Classical Music, Young Magic, Jlin, Laurie Anderson.
Kelli: I go through on and off phases with music. The bands that I always end up going back to are Blonde Redhead, and Cocteau Twins. I love Gregorian Chants, Classical composers Henryk Gorecki (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), Max Richter (Memoryhouse), Arvo Part and so many more, but that’s what’s coming to mind right now 🙂
You’re playing Noise Pop this year, what can we expect at your show?
There’s a lot of intensity when we play. It’s sort of like tight roping in the sense that it takes so much focus to balance the entire set. We both have to juggle so many things at once, whether it’s singing and drumming to odd time signatures, looping and sampling live vocals, switching instruments in the middle of a song, there’s not a dull moment. The element of risk is a driving force for us, but we are also humbled by the fact that anything can go wrong at any given moment.
What’s the music scene like in New York these days? Have you guys dealt with a lot of club closures like we have here on the West Coast?
Even though Vákoum was born in New York, we relocated to the West Coast at the very beginning of our collaboration. New York has always felt like the kind of place where emerging and established artists can share their music with serious music fans, as there’s room for all types of music. There’s a sense of curiosity and openness that we haven’t found elsewhere (so far).
If you could put your own version of a supergroup, who would be in it and why?
Elizabeth Frazer, Lisa Gerrard, Karin Dreijer, Kazu Makino and Anohni. we’d be really curious to see what they would do with their voices together.
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
That we are married.
Noise Pop 2018 Festival presents The Album Leaf, Vákoum, Indy Nyles // Fri Feb. 23 7:30pm (doors) // 21+ // $20-$22 // Swedish American Hall